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Taxes, faculty vouchers and the tradition battle. Robert Gehrke’s have a look at the Utah Legislature 2023 priorities.


I used to be speaking with some associates the opposite night time when it occurred to me that it’ll have been 26 years since I coated my first legislative session.

I bear in mind these early years on the outdated Capitol when it was nonetheless ready for a slight quake to crush us all. On the time, I had an eyebrow ring (do not ask), zero children, no home, two sport coats, theoretically owned an iron and was in sheer awe of the potential for good that these elected representatives may do.

I used to be each an optimist and a idiot. All these years later, I’ve children, a home, no physique jewellery and I want I may say this Legislature will acknowledge that potential good for the folks of the state.

However it will not.

This session, greater than any I can bear in mind, sees a confluence of vile, divisive tradition battle points—a physique that good points from stoking these divisions and an entire lack of electoral accountability.

So, in preparation for what’s to come back, the wide-eyebrow-pierced optimist and the jaded, gray-haired cynic in me supply up what we should always hope this Legislature will obtain — a few of which, to be clear, they possible will truly do—together with the wreckage I anticipate we’ll see sifting by the rubble of this session.

what they need to do

Significant water conservation

Gov. Spencer Cox has proposed greater than half a billion {dollars} in federal cash for water conservation efforts. Plenty of it is smart — funding issues like turf substitute applications, for instance. However they need to be daring: Way more cash for the Nice Salt Lake (which specialists warn may vanish within the subsequent 5 years), transfer up the deadline and add cash to put in meters on secondary water, rescind the regulation that lets water speculators sit on Unused water for as a lot as 40 years.

They should get severe about addressing the true problem—discovering effectivity in agriculture, which now consumes about three-fourths of the water within the state.

And possibly we determine a strategy to inform Utahns, on these days after they cannot see the mountains on account of the mud off the lake mattress, how a lot of that’s because of the disappearance of that after nice lake.

Broaden full-day kindergarten

Whether or not or not college students have the chance to attend full-day kindergarten in Utah largely is dependent upon the whims of their faculty districts. However the advantages of full-day kindergarten are well-established—children get a leg up in math and studying, they profit from social growth and it’s significantly useful to at-risk college students.

A invoice handed final yr offered cash to districts that select to supply kindergarten, however Utah stays final within the nation in entry to full-day kindergarten. We have to preserve constructing in an effort to guarantee each little one throughout the state has entry to the advantages of early childhood training.

Weapons and home violence

We have seen so-called Purple Flag Legal guidelines proposed and shot down the final a number of years on this state, however the latest murder-suicide involving a household of eight in Enoch was in no way distinctive — almost 1 / 4 of murders within the state stem from home violence — and may drive house the purpose that turmoil and weapons are a foul mixture.

Some good work has been achieved in recent times to guard home companions, however extra is required. The Legislature also needs to go a invoice sponsored by Sen. Todd Weiler and backed by Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson that might create a database of home violence calls to police, so officers, prosecutors and judges know if there’s a historical past of violence, even when costs weren’t filed. The invoice stems from the homicide of Henderson’s cousin by an abusive ex.

Put money into households

There may be greater than 1 / 4 billion {dollars} in a Medicaid fund created by the 2018 poll initiative to increase well being protection and a few alternatives to assist low- and middle-income households.

The Legislature can guarantee all Medicaid recipients get dental protection, prolong post-partum protection so moms do not threat dropping insurance coverage 60 days after they offer beginning and go a invoice by Sen. Luz Escamilla, D-Salt Lake Metropolis, that might ensure all Utah children can get entry to well being care. In spite of everything, if the Legislature goes to be pro-life, the priority should not cease at beginning.

Past that, a scarcity in little one care suppliers threatens to drive Utahns, significantly ladies, out of the workforce. Increasing kindergarten will assist resolve this problem, however the funding in households must go additional.

Providing a big little one care tax credit score to working households, incentivizing household depart and increasing the Earned Revenue Tax Credit score can be a great begin. And whereas we’re at it, make the EITC refundable.

Each legislator who complains about inflation — and so they all do — must be reminded that it is lots worse for individuals who had been already struggling to get by.

Undertake a brand new state flag

Yay? It will not go as easily as you may anticipate, however we’ll ultimately get a brand new flag that can look higher on t-shirts — a advertising and marketing triumph.

And at last, they need to add bar licenses to accommodate the free market. That is straightforward.

If the gavel drops in March and the Legislature has checked the packing containers above, I would contemplate it a hit. We additionally know they’ve their sights set on plenty of different actions which might be extra problematic, however prone to go.

What the Legislature will do that yr

Trampling on transgender children

A flurry of payments have already been filed, some aiming to cease gender reassignment surgical procedure on minors, others seeking to cease hormone remedy on minors. Whether or not or not there may be advantage to the payments would not, frankly, matter. Transgender Utahns are a simple goal for legislators, who know demeaning the group will solely profit them politically. It is dangerous and disgusting, however legislators do not care. These payments possible cannot be stopped.

Some faculty vouchers

Final yr, Rep. Candice Pierucci’s Hope Scholarship Program — which might have offered mother and father with vouchers to allow them to ship their children to non-public faculty — suffered a convincing loss, voted down within the Home 22-53. However a few of these opponents are gone and advocates for vouchers are again once more, having had a yr to recruit assist.

A sweeping voucher plan would not appear within the playing cards, however some incremental step, dressed as much as appear to be they’re serving to poor children (although low-income households cannot afford most personal faculty tuition even with a state voucher), will get sufficient assist to go. Will probably be the proverbial camel’s nostril beneath the tent.

Slash taxes, once more

Final yr, Senate President Stuart Adams vowed it could be “the yr of the tax lower — once more.” So this shall be “once more, once more.”

Cox floated a direct rebate that does not appear to be getting a lot traction, nor will his latest pitch to eliminate the meals tax. As a substitute, search for some broad-based revenue tax lower (which usually helps higher-earning taxpayers) and possibly some property tax reduction.

“I am assured that we will have the most important tax lower in state historical past this yr,” Home Speaker Brad Wilson stated not too long ago. I do not doubt him.

ESG for Each Single GOP-er

State Treasurer Marlo Oaks has been crusading towards ESG scores — brief for Environmental, Social and Governance — as a manner to make sure banks and establishments aren’t allowed to contemplate the environmental and social impression of their lending.

The priority is that if there may be, say, a photo voltaic plant and a coal mine looking for financing, lenders may lean towards photo voltaic as a result of, nicely, it is sustainable. No extra! This boogeyman (investing in initiatives with long-term sustainability) is the most recent trigger célèbre within the campaign towards “wokeism,” and the Utah Legislature — regardless of previous opposition from banks and people who must work in finance — will do their greatest to place an finish to it.

eradicating abortion

It doesn’t matter what you consider abortion, the statute on the books is a slap-dash mess, thrown collectively for political functions, not sensible ones. It’ll must be refined. They are going to tighten up the language however the intent will nonetheless be to ban abortions in Utah. There will even be a bid to place language in Utah’s Structure basically banning abortion and to torpedo the lawsuit towards the state’s mess of a regulation.

What are you able to do?

Keep knowledgeable, listen to what’s occurring from trusted information sources, discover out who your legislator is by visiting and coming into your handle within the “Discover Your Legislator” tab on the underside proper after which name or electronic mail them and allow them to know what you assume.

Be thoughtful, well mannered and resolute. I am unable to assure they’re going to hear, however the one voices lawmakers hear should not be these interesting to the Legislature’s worst instincts.


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